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Mainstream, VOL L, No 41, September 29, 2012

Maharashtra Crisis in National Politics

Editorial

Tuesday 2 October 2012, by SC

While the UPA Government’s Congress leadership, notably PM Manmohan Singh, remains firm on going ahead with his reforms agenda unveiled on September 14 with the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, the Congress-NCP ruling coalition in Maharashtra has suffered a jolt with Deputy CM and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s dramatic resignation on September 25. This has doubtless put State CM Prithviraj Chavan (who has all along stood out for his honesty, integrity and probity in public life) on the defensive and the events following the junior Pawar’s resignation—all the NCP Ministers in the State having decided to step down in solidarity with him—have also caused much consternation for the NCP leadership, especially its supremo (Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar). Ajit Pawar’s move was definitely intended to counter allegations of the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam during his tenure as the State’s Irrigation Minister; the CM had promised a white paper on the alleged scam when the issue rocked the State Assembly sometime back. But the move was also linked to a power tussle withint he NCP—Ajit Pawar’s ambitions having clashed with those of his cousin, Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, who enjoys her father’s patronage and backing in the succession struggle. In the circumstances Prithviraj Chavan’s Chief Ministership itself is at stake and unless the seniormost leaders of the Congress and NCP intervene the crisis in the ruling alliance would snowball to the advantage of the Opposition represented by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine.

Meanwhile with the Congress Working Committee having endorsed Manmohan Singh’s reform package, the BJP’s National Executive meeting, prior to the party’s National Council session, has sent out a clear message to the investors: if voted to power, the BJP would reverse the UPA Government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail. But then even on this issue there appear to be differences within the Opposition NDA that the BJP heads: Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal’s statements favouring FDI in retail indicate the Akali Dal’s differing view in the matter. And one is not quite sure what stance the BJP itself would take on capturing South Block following the next polls: if its past record is any guide, one cannot repose confidence in its present pronouncements.

In the midst of such developments a whistle-blower associated with India Against Corruption (IAC) has revealed the BJP’s close affinity with Sharad Pawar: her pleading with BJP chief Nitin Gadkari to take up the issue on Ajit Pawar’s reported irrigation scam were of no avail as the party President candidly conveyed his inability to corner the NCP strongman on this question because of his political compulsions. The BJP leaders are now learnt to be planning legal action against the whistleblower even as Gadkari himself is maintaining studied silence.

National politics treads the familiar path at a time when the political situation in Maharashtra turns murkier and more complex. And this happens just before the country observes the one hundred and fortythird birth anniversary of the Mahatma who was responsible for the birth of our independent nationhood through a unique struggle based on truth, non-violence and just means.

September 27 S.C.

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